Russia appeals to WTO over EU duties on Russian steel

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia appealed to the World Trade Organization on Monday to settle a dispute with the European Union over anti-dumping duties imposed on its steelmakers, one of a number of trade disputes between the two.

The EU introduced duties in August of between 18.7 and 36.1 percent on Russian cold rolled steel, a product used in the construction and automotive industries, following allegations Russian steelmakers were exporting at unfairly low prices.

It also imposed duties on Chinese cold rolled steel.

The WTO said it had been notified of the dispute and request for WTO consultations.

“The reason for the suit was multiple violations of WTO rules committed by the European Commission during its anti-dumping investigation,” the Russian economy ministry said in a statement.

Two of Russia's largest steelmakers, NLMK NLMK.MM and Severstal CHMF.MM, lodged formal complaints against the European Commission in June, alleging bullying by its officials during their investigation.

A Commission source said on Monday that the EU executive was confident the duties in question were imposed in compliance with WTO law.

The Commission would attempt to clarify the issue in consultations, the initial process in WTO dispute settlement that typically lasts 60 days. If these fail, the complainant can request adjudication by a panel.

NLMK, which employs over 2,000 people in Europe, said the EU’s investigation was conducted “in flagrant violation of all possible norms and standards.”

“The decision to impose anti-dumping duties is absurd and NLMK Group continues to deny accusations of dumping on the EU market,” the company said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Severstal said the company maintained the EU investigation had been conducted improperly and it supported the economy ministry’s actions.

“At a time of difficult economic conditions for metals makers... we are witnessing the growth of local protectionism around the world,” Severstal said in a statement. The EU’s decision on cold-rolled steel was “made not on economic grounds but for some other reasons”, it said.

A WTO panel last week threw out a number of EU complaints, but accepted some of its arguments, in a dispute over Russian anti-dumping duties imposed on German and Italian light commercial vehicles.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, editing by Alexander Winning and Susan Fenton